Hearing Information & Assistance
How’s Your Hearing?
Hearing loss is more than just volume - it affects the clarity and quality of what you hear. When people cannot hear, they cannot fully participate in conversations and activities. They may become isolated because they do not know what others are saying and can’t contribute to the conversation. Others may perceive it as confusion or a sign of dementia, but it is really a matter of not having the right tools.
Hearing damage can take some time to be recognized. People with hearing loss may not notice subtle changes. If you worked in a setting with loud noises - like a factory, musician, construction or served in the military - chances are protective gear was not offered if you started working before 1970. Plus years of lawn mowing, going to sports stadiums and playing or listening to music (even classical) can contribute to hearing damage years later.
Writer David Owen describes our current age as a "deafening" one, and in his new book, Volume Control, he explains how the loud noises we live with are harming our ears. (Davies, Dave, “From Lawn Mowers To Rock Concerts, Our 'Deafening World' Is Hurting Our Ears”, Fresh Air, WNYC 93.9, Radio) "When we talk about age-related hearing loss, the assumption is that this is something that happens to old people," Owen says. "It is something that happens to old people — but it's something that's caused by things that we do when we're young."
Owen also notes that people delay getting help for hearing loss. The average time from when someone first notices a change in their hearing to when they actually go to a doctor is 10 years. But getting diagnosed and assistance early is important. Of the 36 million people who experience hearing loss, almost half have never been tested or treated. Owen found that people who have trouble hearing also tend to have more unrelated health issues of all kinds. “It, sort of, overwork our brains. If you can't quite hear what people are saying, you have to work harder to figure it out, and the brainpower that you use to do that is brainpower that you can't use for anything else. People who have trouble hearing also tend to withdraw… So it has effects that we don't necessarily associate with it and that pervade all parts of our lives”
What Can You Do?
- See a doctor. If you notice a change or problem in your hearing it is important to see an audiologist. Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover hearing exams or hearing aids, but some Medicare Advantage Plans ( Part C) might.
- Take Advantage of New Technology. It is increasingly possible to buy over-the-counter, less expensive hearing improvement products. For example Bose, a leading speaker and headphone manufacturer offers “Hearphones,” conversation-enhancing headphones that are specially designed to help you hear in loud environments.Many theaters and performance venues, including SOPAC, offer Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) at performances, free of charge.
- Take the National Hearing Test - an independent and scientifically validated hearing screen test developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health. This telephone-based screening test is scientifically validated and your results remain confidential with you. To take it, you must get an access code from www.nationalhearingtest.org. The test is $8, but AARP member can take it for free.
For More Information
We have published several articles in our newsletter on hearing and assistive technology by Pearl Feder, LCSW. Pearl has retired after working with the hearing impaired for decades. Read her articles for advice and information by clicking in the titles below.
Tips for Being Deaf-Aware: Part 1
Communication is an essential part of life, but Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are often cut off from many forms of communicating that hearing people rely on. This can be frustrating and isolating. Read more here: Click here